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Paqpaqli crash: Confusion emerges over way Community Chest Fund is run

Witnesses testify

File photo.

File photo.

There was confusion over the way in which the Malta Community Chest Fund was being run, with various members on the board of administrators testifying on Wednesday that they were not quite sure who issued instructions or who reported to whom.

This was the general impression given in open court when the compilation of evidence continued against the 13 members on the core committee involved in the organisation of the annual crowd-drawing charity event of Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina, the car show which ceased following the tragic events of 2015.

Five members of the board of administrators testified about their involvement in the MCCF and the link between the foundation and the event.

The general impression given was that all the witnesses served as volunteers on the advisory board, which assessed requests for funds put to the MCCF.

Mathilda Cordina, one of the witnesses, declared that she had no idea who took decisions regarding the organisation of events. Asked by lawyer Stefano Filletti about the fact that Joe Bartolo, one of her colleagues on the board, used to attend Paqpaqli core committee meetings, Ms Cordina first stated that he did so to get feedback on requests for funds, only to declare a while later that she did not know whether Mr Bartolo had ever attended these core committee meetings.

When lawyer Giannella DeMarco pointed out that Ms Cordina’s area of specialisation was health and safety - even presenting an educational programme on these lines - the witness replied that she was “not a professional” and had never attended the Paqpaqli committee meetings.

Another member of  board, Charlotte Geronimi, currently employed as hospitality coordinator at the Office of the President, was rather vague in her replies regarding the function of the board and the manner whereby direction was issued.

Even the most straightforward question, regarding the role of the President within the MCCF, was met with the often-repeated reply of ‘I don’t know.’

Read: Paqpaqli crash: President says the show was organised by a third party, she did not have direct role

The witness recalled how on the day of the tragic incident she had gone to Hal Far, bearing an identification tag and a MCCF donation box to lend a hand as volunteer - as she always did whenever help was needed.

However, she could not say whether she had received instructions from anyone, stating only that she had discussed the matter with the board secretary, prompting presiding magistrate Aaron Bugeja to question whether everything within the board was done according to routine.

Inspector Silvio Magro, the most senior officer at Hal Far on the day of the tragic events of 2015, in reply to a question by Dr Filletti, declared that he had observed nothing wrong on the day, while stressing that he was “no health and safety officer,” and that had he noted anything amiss he would have definitely taken action.

Presenting a copy of a risk assessment issued by the Paqpaqli team on November 12, 2013 in respect to the 2014 event, Inspector Magro declared that he had obtained the document from the records of the inquiry following the 2015 event.

In the preceding years, he had always received verbal instructions from Assistant Commissioner Sandro Zarb as to the crowd control role of the police at the Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina event. The risk assessment report had never been discussed with the police, Inspector Magro insisted.

The officer also pointed out that prior to the 2015 event he had been unable to attend the last meeting of the organisational core committee since he was abroad on work duty, which explained why Inspector Louise Calleja had attended in his stead, reporting back that, as usual, police were tasked with crowd control.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sergio Polidano, one of the spectators who was grievously injured in the crash, recalled the traumatic experience which left him marred for life. The man explained how he had been watching the car show when, suddenly, he had found himself among those injured when Paul Bailey’s Porsche had lost control.

The man explained how the accident had left him with a permanent disability following serious knee injuries.

The case continues on Thursday.

Police inspectors Josric Mifsud, Silvio Magro and Hubert Cini are prosecuting.

Mr Bailey is being assisted by Dr de Marco and Stephen Tonna Lowell. Joe Giglio is defence counsel to Tonio Darmanin.

Dr Filletti is assisting Brian Gatt and Julian Manara.

Roberto Montalto, Michael Grech, Shazoo Ghaznavi, Alessia Zammit Mackeon, Reuben Farrugia, Franco Debono and Amadeus Muscat are among the lawyers appearing parte civile for the victims.

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